By Gabriel Stovall
McDONOUGH, Ga. — Maryland, Cal, Syracuse, Navy, Army, Troy, Charlotte.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the current list of Division I schools coming after the services of perhaps one of the Southern Crescent’s most underrated offensive tackles.
Throw in an interested Tennessee — a school that, unlike the aforementioned six, has not yet offered but is seriously looking — and you’ve got yet another rising blue chip football recruit coming out of the Southern Crescent.
But Eagle’s Landing Christian’s Chandler Reeves doesn’t seem to mind either the newfound attention or the fact that, until recently, he hasn’t been as big of a blip on some high school football recruiting radars as some other area talents who have comparable offer lists.
“I definitely count it as a blessing to get offers, and I realize how few high school football players get the opportunity to play big time college football,” Reeves said. “I’m just thankful to God for giving me the opportunity to do that.”
Reeves is a 6-foot-6, 260 pound tackle whose leanness and technical ability is turning heads even without him having a stereotypical hefty frame that one might expect on an offensive lineman.
But ELCA coach Jonathan Gess — who’s also Reeves’ offensive line coach — says weight won’t be a factor for the maturation of his rising senior.
“I think going into his junior year, you know, he played his sophomore year at about 210 pounds, and he was maybe seen as just too little or two skinny,” Gess said. “But now in his junior year, he added weight and got stronger and you could see it in the way that he played. And the people that are coming in to recruit him, I think they’re doing it based of that junior year film tape, and they’re seeing something that interests them.”
And Reeves thinks he knows what it is.
“It’s my footwork,” Reeves said. “Footwork can make up for a lot as far as size. It’s about knowing how to get leverage and how to make up ground. You could be 350 pounds, but when you’re going up against fast defensive ends like a guy like Nick Dawson was for us last year, who runs (a 40-yard dash) in the high 4s, the difference in speed can kill you when you’re just a huge lug.”
When dissecting footwork, Reeves said he doesn’t even need to look to the NFL to find models worth emulating. Two former Chargers, Isaac Rochelle (Notre Dame) and Andrew Williams (Auburn) are his role models in that regard.
“Those two guys were just masters at using leverage and destroying people by chopping their feet,” reeves said. “Those jokers can just move.”
That’s why Reeves doesn’t complain, regardless of the assortment of footwork and agility drills he may incur during a workout.
“We do a lot of chutes, like every single day,” he said. “We work on staying low, firing out, chopping our feet on and off the ground. We do ladders and dots, three-cone drills. Any thing to make it second nature to have feet that are quick and explosive. Being able to move your feet is the name of the game.”
Reeves said he attributes his year-to-year transformation to Gess, the position coach even more than Gess, the head coach. A popular adage regarding offensive linemen is that no one really notices an offensive lineman until he makes a mistake, and Reeves says that Gess prepares the trenchmen both physically and mentally to handle that attitude.
“Some fans don’t even know we’re on the field until something happens, like we miss a blocking assignment or something,” Reeves said. “But I almost take it as a challenge, that if that’s the case, I can’t let anything go wrong. On our team offensive linemen get ripped more than anyone. Coach Gess, man, that joker will get after you, but I honor Coach for that because I wouldn’t be where I am without that, and our team wouldn’t be where we are without our line.”
Reeves was a big part of a punishing running game at ELCA that developed steadily over the course of its 2014 Class A runner-up season. The Chargers rebounded from an 0-6 start while playing a gauntlet-style schedule to win its last seven, punching their ticket to the Georgia Dome for the state championship game against Mount Paran.
This year, the schedule will stay virtually the same, except that last year’s road games will be home games, and vice versa. And with spring football just a week away, Reeves said he’s starting to feel the competitive juices welling up in him to get back out and prove he and the Chargers belong in conversations about the state’s elite football programs.
“I’m very excited about the outlook of this team,” he said. “We’re a bunch of high energy guys, and we’re just ready to get after it and turn it around. Obviously we went to the state championship game last year and it didn’t turn out the way we wanted to. But it maybe more of a benefit in terms of adding more fuel to our fire.”
Part of that fire, Gess said, is Reeves desire to prove that he can compete with those whom others deem to be the “big boys” of Georgia high school football.
“I just think it’s going to be a chance, this season, for Chandler to continue to prove that he’s able to play with the guys from the bigger schools and play at their level,” Gess said. “And that’s not to say he can’t. But when he starts going against guys from Stockbridge and places like that, and competing toe to toe with them. I mean, he’s gonna dominate the undersized kids. But can he go up against a kid who’s committed to Ole Miss and show that he can hold his own?”
Reeves says, yes — both for himself and his team.
“We get asked every day, you know, how do we feel about Coach Gess scheduling all these teams that are bigger from bigger classes and bigger schools,” Reeves said. “And everyone on the team, including me, has the same response. We’re excited. We’re hungry and we’re ready to go get it and no one cares about bigger classes or bigger stats. We’re more than ready to show the state that we can compete.”
Check out Reeves’ 2014 highlight reel: